The Making of an Insecure Human Being

Home / Marriage Counseling SWFL / The Making of an Insecure Human Being

The Making of an Insecure Human Being

The Impact of Not Being There

Copyright © 2016 Dr. Ken Newberger

Perth Children’s Hospital (Australia)
The original sign with posted visiting hours


Today, most parents take unrestricted visitation of their hospitalized children for granted, as stated by marriage counseling naples.  Many hospitals make provisions for a parent to sleep in the same room as their children.  In a 2008 New York Times article Dr. Howard Market observed, “at every children’s hospital across the nation, at just about any time of day or night, you are likely to see at least as many parents as patients.”

But it wasn’t always this way.  This was anything but the case throughout the 20th century until the 1960s in the United States, England, and other Western countries.  A 1954 New York City survey revealed that most children in city hospitals were allowed only two or three visits a week, an hour at a time.  For children under five, this was devastating.  One nurse explained the rational.  “Visiting only upsets the children, and we can’t have that.” Marriage counseling bonita springs and marriage counseling cape coral agreed that parental visits had become associated with the young child’s crying and screaming, particularly when the parents were getting ready to leave.  Such visits were therefore discouraged because in their absence the child appeared to “settle in.”

But research published in the 1950s and early 1960s demonstrated just the opposite.  Parental visits didn’t cause the child’s unhappiness.  They revealed the depths of the child’s pent-up misery caused by the separation.  According to James Robertson, the leading researcher in the area, “At visiting times, the facade [of being content] broke through to show that the small child neededmore contact with his parents, not less.”  In the sampling of cases listed below (cited in Robertson’s 1962 book, “Hospitals and Children: A Parent’s Eye View),” most of these hospitalized children, who were under age 5, had stays of about a week.  At that time, parental visits were for the most part limited to ½ hour or 1 hour per day.

Trauma in the Making

Statements by Mothers: BEFORE and DURING Their Child’s Hospital Stay

[53] “I’ll never forget the agony of being parted from him when he most needed me.  That visiting half-hour was one, I’ll never forget… It was heartbreaking to see my normally well-balanced secure, carefree Mark become tense, anxious, and utterly confused.  Leaving him… sobbing and dejected… was agony.  Don’t hospitals realise the harm a child suffers?”

[73] “We were still visiting about 30 minutes daily and the child, normally a happy, carefree, confident boy was becoming a nervous wreck.  As soon as we appeared he would start clutching us, hanging on to us, beseeching us not to leave him, to take him home, etc., and when we left he looked wild and terrified…. His screams followed us the length of the corridor.”

[46] Day of discharge after 4 days, no visiting permitted].  “I could hardly believe it was the same wee darling boy.  He had lost so much weight, his face was pinched and haggard as if he’d been so miserable, and he could do nothing but hang on to me and hug me tight.  I’ll never forget his first words to me – ‘Mummy, I thought you were never coming back for me.’”

[31] “Before going into the hospital she was an extremely good child, happy and content.  She seldom cried… When I visited her in the hospital she invariably screamed and cried when she saw me and clung to me…. Naturally, when I left she roared the place down.”

[92] “As we prepared to leave she would stand at the end of the bed, desperately trying to climb out… purple with rage and screaming with grief.  We left her like that every day.”

Statements by Mothers: AFTER Their Child’s Hospital Stay


[44] “My little girl was in hospital about nine months ago… I know that since my little girl has been in hospital it has completely changed her character. She is always afraid of me leaving her with anyone again. I tried before she went into hospital to explain to her, but she understood as only a two-year-old could do. Now she refuses to play on her own. Even if I go upstairs she always calls out to me or follows me. In her cot at night it is always ‘Hold my hand, Mummy.’ I can never convince her that I won’t leave her again. And she has even started to bite her nails. A habit which I can’t break her of. I could go on telling you lots of things, she has changed completely.”

[29] “John was a very happy and confident child who mixed well with others… He came home withdrawn and with no confidence at all… He would not go to his Daddy and I could not leave him at all, because he screamed and sobbed. He was frightened of being touched by me in any way (undressed, etc.) and he cowered literally, before neighbors and friends whom he knew hitherto…. Now five weeks afterward… I can move from room to room without worrying John. But he is still terribly frightened with other people and distrustful.”

[33] “When she came home (after only 5 days) I thought all would be well, instead she wouldn’t let me put her down to do anything, she wouldn’t go to anyone (not even her father), she was terrified I was going to leave her, and when I took her upstairs to bed, and she saw her cot, she almost went hysterical. In the end I had to go to bed and have her with me, even then she didn’t sleep for fear I would leave her. She was completely unmanageable, until I brought her a feeding bottle and in time she went to sleep with that (which was a thing she had not had before) and with that she wetted the bed again, and she still won’t go to bed without it; though now a very healthy child and full of mischief, she hates me out of her sight. This could all have been avoided if only I had been allowed a hospital bed with her.”

[34] “Visiting was one hour daily and we always left her almost hysterical and even during the hour she couldn’t think of anything but that we’d be leaving her soon. Ever since [her return home] she hasn’t wanted to let me out of her sight although she used to be a fairly independent child.”

[42] “Since he has been home he won’t leave me, and he won’t talk to other people, and he is really very tame. Before he went into hospital he was always playing, laughing never crying, not even if he fell over, but now he cries for anything. Every now and again he says, ‘You won’t send me back to hospital, will you?’”

[36] “My little boy, now four, has been in hospital twice. Although this was a long while ago, my little boy has lost most of his self-confidence; he has never had the same life in him since he came home a year ago.”

[48] “When she came home, she woke screaming every night for weeks and even now 5 months later still talks about it. It seems to have made a very deep impression on her, and only lately has she played with other children without coming back every few minutes to make sure we are still here.”

[43] “I kept her quiet in a cot in the living room, but she couldn’t bear me out of her sight and kept asking if I loved her. No one could have been more loved but she obviously thought we hadn’t loved her enough and that was why we’d left her in hospital. I had to stay with her every night till she fell asleep – a thing I’d never done before – and even now, 2 years later, she doesn’t like to be left in bed in a room by herself. She hated me even to speak to anyone else at first, and wanted my whole attention the whole time – which I gave her. Gradually she relaxed but it took a long, long time before she seemed secure again.”


[39] “Since this first visit to hospital she has been extremely difficult to manage and has frequent temper tantrums.”

[69] “Only five days came out a different child…. The day he was discharged – what a shock. Gone was the jolly laughing little boy I once had. Now he was kicking, screaming, and thoroughly uncontrollable.”

[31] “Before going into the hospital she was an extremely good child, happy and content. She seldom cried…. When I brought the child home she’d changed completely. First of all, she appeared to hate her father, screamed when he came even near her and showed violence to him, i.e. biting scratching, kicking, etc. After a week, she turned again me, would scream at the sight of me and yet if I left the room, would scream harder until I returned. Six months later she still rocks in bed sometimes for hour on end. She has a dim light in the room, is terrified if the bedroom door is shut. After two months of thoroughly disliking me she is back to normal both to her father and myself. Her temper is still violent.

[88] “Once home the fun began – all the pent up misery came out and it took all of three months, night and day to get her back to normal, and even now we seem to get outbursts sponsored, probably, by this upheaval.”

[89b] “The other results of the stay in hospital are regression in toilet training, screaming fits at night, loss of all discipline, and a very antagonistic attitude to me. He turned to his father and grandmother whenever possible and only in September, some eight moths after being in hospital, did he stop saying, ‘I don’t like Mummy, I like Daddy and Nanny.’”

[36] She was delighted to come home with me, but would not let me leave her alone for a minute for some days, and only gradually allowed me to go out of the room for a short time. She would have outbursts of rage, tearing at our faces and screaming – quite senseless and violent and not always for any obvious reason. The most revealing thing I saw her do was to take her much-loved tiny doll out of its cradle, and quietly and with great concentration grind it to powder under the heel of her shoe.”

[38] “The terrible fuss we had was unbelievable. He raged, shouted, threw things about, tore his books and repeatedly attacked me. The house was in a turmoil for three days and although he calmed down he only regained confidence in me after three or four months, and frequently asked me why I didn’t visit him more often or accused me of letting him down. I think I got off lightly by loving him back to security instead of smacking him into a deeper sense of insecurity as I knew exasperated parents too often do.”

The Impact of Not Being There

The sudden separation of mother and child for days on end was a traumatic experience for the child. One mother at the time commented, No one will ever convince me that these children did not suffer in a way which should make our civilized society ashamed of its cruelty. As noted in the introduction, things have vastly changed since the 1960’s. Rooming in with your baby is now standard practice.

Nonetheless, the documented statements from mother’s in the 1960’s provide a unique window into the development of an insecure human being. Subsequent research has demonstrated that failing to meet s child’s emotional and attachment needs negatively impacts that child for life.  Such children become unhappy, anxious, withdrawn, and/or full of anger. Thankfully, the separations described above were relatively short. Attachment avoidance and detachment, which often occurs after prolonged separation, did not seem to occur in these cases. But anxious attachment patterns did emerge in a matter of days.

Application to Marriage

NEGATIVE.  People get married to bond. Yet, that doesn’t always occur. The sky-high divorce rate makes it clear that a significant portion of couples are not adequately meshed. Often times, insecurities from childhood and the ways we learned to cope and protect ourselves carry over into adulthood. These patterns then inhibit the insecure adult from fully bonding to their spouse. As the months and years pass, small fissures in the relationship grow into larger ones. The relationship becomes more individualized. Couples spend more time apart and less time engaged together. Intense conflict emerges in the absence of sufficient connection. The relationship suffers and the marriage deteriorates, as said by the marriage counseling fort myers.

POSITIVE.  The good news is that marriage provides us the opportunity to develop new, healthier patterns of attachment, as stated by the marriage counseling estero. Our spouses can be there for us in a way that our parents were not. Our spouses can be responsive to our emotional needs in a way that our parents were not. Our spouses can be engaged with us in a way that our parents were not. Distrust can be transformed into trust and relational insecurity into security. The larger point to be made here is that relational insecurities developed in childhood can be ameliorated to one degree or another in adulthood.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If you are not yet a client of Dr. Newberger and need help to increase bonding in your marriage, call Dr. Newberger to briefly discuss your situation without charge. He phone number is: 239-689-4266.

Recommended Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt